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Ineens was er Goldin vier fotografen over de invloed van


Nan Goldin Rosan Hollak

artikel | Vrijdag 01-10-2010 | Sectie: Cultureel Supplement | Pagina: C04 | Rosan Hollak

Het werk van de Amerikaanse fotografe Nan Goldin sloeg eind jaren tachtig in als een bom. Het is nu te zien in het Fotomuseum. Voor veel fotografen is ze nog steeds een voorbeeld. Dat rauwe, het recht erop af, dat vind ik echt prachtig, zegt Bertien van Manen. 'Mijn foto's komen voort uit relaties, ze ontstaan niet vanuit observatie. Het is een inmiddels bekende uitspraak van de wereldberoemde Amerikaanse fotografe Nan Goldin (1953). Wie naar haar werk van de afgelopen decennia kijkt, kan niet anders dan concluderen dat het klopt wat ze beweert. Neem het intens droeve beeld dat Goldin in 1989 maakte van haar vriendin, de uitgemergelde New Yorkse underground-actrice en schrijfster Cookie Mueller. Je ziet Cookie met een boze blik langs de kist van haar overleden man Vittorio lopen. Zij heeft aids, is op dat moment doodziek en kan nauwelijks meer praten, hij is overleden aan dezelfde ziekte. Het is een vluchtig beeld, niet meer dan een snapshot, waar totale wanhoop uit spreekt. Of kijk naar het beeld dat Goldin, vele jaren later, in 2001, maakte van haar naakte vrienden Clemens en Jens die elkaar uitgelaten omhelzen in de hal van haar appartement in Parijs. Het is een explosie van vreugde. De foto vangt de kracht van hun symbiose, van de ultieme verbintenis die ze voelen op het hoogtepunt van hun verliefdheid. Ga dan weer terug in de tijd naar dat beroemde zelfportret dat Goldin maakte in 1984, een maand nadat haar vriend Brian haar bont en blauw had geslagen in Berlijn. Een jonge vrouw met een bos donkere krullen, de rood gestifte lippen verbeten op elkaar geklemd, staart met een donker, fonkelend rechteroog recht de camera in. Het linkeroog bloeddoorlopen, nauwelijks nog open. Wat een woede en verongelijktheid. Het beeld is een directe aanklacht tegen alles wat in een relatie fout kan gaan. Kijk wat mij is aangedaan. Ik pik dit niet. Verdomme! Confrontatie. Dat is het woord dat op Nan Goldin van toepassing is. De wilde,


kleurige snapshots die ze in de afgelopen dertig jaar maakte van haar vrienden en zichzelf zijn direct, dicht op de huid en nietsontziend. Het is een stijl die bijdraagt aan een uitstraling van authenticiteit die wereldwijd grote invloed heeft gehad op een hele generatie fotografen. Wie kijkt naar Goldins indringende slideshows, vanaf morgen (zie kader) te zien op de expositie Poste Restante in het Nederlands Fotomuseum, wordt geconfronteerd met de meest banale maar ook de meest diepe emoties van het bestaan: liefde, afwijzing, haat, dood. De foto's van Goldin doen je beseffen dat de mens een gebrekkig wezen is, geneigd te vervallen in de meest troosteloze ellende, zegt de Zweedse fotograaf Anders Petersen (1944), al jaren bevriend met Goldin. Volgens Petersen, die begin jaren zeventig bekend werd met CafĂŠ Lehmitz, een zwart-witserie over dronkelappen en lowlifes in een bar in Hamburg, behoort de Amerikaanse tot een 'familie' van fotografen. Ed van der Elsken, Diane Arbus, Daido Moriyama, Antoine D'Agata: het zijn allemaal mensen die in staat zijn om ĂŠcht tot de kern van wat mensen beweegt door te dringen. Het zijn fotografen die willen aanraken, ruiken, proeven wat ze fotograferen. Wat ik van hen heb geleerd is dat het er niet om gaat een goede of slechte foto te maken, het is belangrijker of een beeld geloofwaardig is. De Britse fotografe Leonie Purchas (1978), die vorig jaar de KLM Paul Huf Award won voor haar indringende, duistere fotoserie over haar dwangneurotische moeder, beschouwt Goldin als de eerste die binnen de traditie van de documentairefotografie 'het ijs brak' met haar persoonlijke stijl van fotograferen. Je ziet dat ook bij fotografen als Diane Arbus of Larry Clark, maar wat mij altijd opvalt is hoe mensen bij Goldin direct in de camera kijken. Ze geven zich letterlijk aan haar over. Walker Evans en Robert Frank hebben ook een bepaalde directheid en eerlijkheid in hun manier van fotograferen, alleen waren zij vooral bezig met het van buitenaf documenteren van het Amerikaanse leven. Bij Goldin is alles persoonlijk: ze richt haar camera op haar vrienden en legt ze ook nog eens vast op de meest intieme momenten. Toen ik in de jaren tachtig voor het eerst haar werk zag dacht ik: Jezus, zo gaan we dat dus doen in het vervolg, zegt de Nederlandse fotografe Bertien van Manen (1942). Goldin liet mij zien hoe je direct en dynamisch kan werken zonder bezig te zijn met vorm. Het maakt haar niet uit of een beeld onscherp is of dat een kader ontbreekt. Van Manen noemt de fotografie voor de komst van Goldin een stuk braver. Iedereen was sociaal bewogen, bezig de wereld te veranderen. En ineens was er Goldin: haar foto's waren persoonlijk, direct, ze ging met haar neus bovenop


iedereen zitten, ze lag letterlijk bij haar vrienden in bed. Dat rauwe, het recht erop af, dat vond ik echt prachtig. Goldin fotografeert met het grootste gemak de meest ongemakkelijke situaties, zegt de Amerikaanse fotografe Jessica Dimmock (1978). Ze staat bij wijze van spreken met haar vrienden onder de douche. Ze fotografeerde haar vriendin Cookie zelfs op het toilet. Misschien is dat nu niet zo vreemd meer, maar in de jaren tachtig was dat ongewoon. Dimmock fotografeerde in 2004 een groep junkies in een appartement in Manhattan. Met deze serie, gemaakt in een kleurige snapshot-stijl en getiteld The Ninth Floor, won ze zowel de F Award als de International Award for Concerned Photography. Terwijl ik destijds bezig was met fotograferen heb ik geen moment gedacht dat ik eigenlijk bezig was een eigentijdse variant op Nan Goldins werk te maken. Maar achteraf was dat overduidelijk: de junks, de verslaving, het leed van mensen uit de onderste laag van de samenleving. In 1965, toen Goldin elf was, pleegde haar oudere zus Barbara Holly zelfmoord door voor een trein te springen. Niet lang daarna verliet Goldin haar ouderlijk huis in Lexington en ging voor het eerst op pad met een camera. De eerste snapshots die ze maakte, en later ook exposeerde, waren van transseksuelen en travestieten in The Other Side, een louche bar in Boston. Al snel begint Goldin daarna op een bijna obsessieve manier het ruige leven in al haar facetten vast te leggen. Eind jaren zeventig begint ze de post-punksubcultuur en drugsscene in de omgeving van de Bowery in New York te fotograferen, wat in 1986 resulteert in haar beroemde fotoboek The Ballad of Sexual Dependency en later in het fotoboek I'll be your Mirror (1996). In de daarop volgende periode, na een hevige verslaving aan hero誰ne en coca誰ne, fotografeert Goldin vooral zichzelf, gedurende haar afkickproces, en brengt daarvan de beelden samen in the slideshow All By Myself. Zelfs als ze een bloem fotografeert, gaat het nog over haarzelf, zegt Petersen. Volgens de Zweedse fotograaf is iedere foto die Goldin neemt uiteindelijk een zelfportret. In feite is het een vorm van therapie die ze beoefent. Goldinfotografeert volgens Petersen uit 'persoonlijke noodzaak'. Iemand als Nan wordt gekweld door demonen. De manier om met die demonen te leven is door te werken, door foto's te nemen. Ik denk dat je je eigen angsten het best kan bestrijden door zo dicht mogelijk op je onderwerp te gaan staan en te fotograferen waar je bang voor bent: eenzaamheid, ziekte, dood. Goldin laat zien wie zij is: haar foto's tonen haar vrienden, haar leven, het gaat over haarzelf, zegt Leonie Purchas. In feite toont zij ons haar dagboek, niet in schrift maar


in beeldvorm. Vooral dat laatste heeft Purchas geĂŻnspireerd bij haar eigen fotografie. Goldin heeft mij de moed gegeven om mijzelf als fotograaf ook bloot te geven. Als je opgroeit, ben je geneigd om veel dingen te verstoppen, maar ik denk dat Goldin de neiging heeft om te laten zien hoe de verhoudingen werkelijk zijn. Volgens Purchas heeft de dood van Barbara, aan wie Goldin in 2006 de foto- en filminstallatie Sisters, Saints en Sybils wijdde, een enorme impact gehad op de fotografe. Door de zelfmoord van haar zus raakte Goldin geobsedeerd door de vraag: wat is mijn realiteit? Barbara was een talentvolle pianiste, maar ook een dwars kind dat niet door haar ouders werd begrepen. Ze wilden niet zien wie zij werkelijk was, zegt Purchas. Daarom stopten ze haar weg in een opvangtehuis. Die ontkenning heeft bij Nan de drang ontwikkeld om alles bloot te leggen. Daarom is ze in 2004 de opvangtehuizen en psychiatrische instellingen waar haar zus zat opgesloten gaan fotograferen. Voor haar is het ongezond om dingen te onderdrukken. Ze wil de persoonlijke wereld publiek maken. In interviews heeft Goldin vaak aangegeven dat ze altijd moeite heeft gehad de herinnering aan haar zus, van wie ze maar weinig foto's had, vast te houden. Fotografie werd voor haar een geheugensteun, een manier om degenen die haar dierbaar zijn te vereeuwigen. Haar foto's zijn haar relikwieĂŤn, zegt Dimmock. Het is een manier om het leven vast te houden. Ik begrijp dat wel. Vaak kan je, achteraf, door een foto goed zien hoe je je eigenlijk tot iemand verhoudt. Via de camera heb ik soms dingen van mensen geleerd die ik op een andere manier nooit te weten zou zijn gekomen. Het fotograferen stelt me in staat om ruige, gekke, intense relaties met mensen te ontwikkelen, iets wat ik in het gewone leven nooit zou kunnen. Fotografie kan een creatieve oplossing bieden voor een bepaald gemis . Fotografie kan zeker helpen bij het verwerken van verdriet, meent Van Manen. Het heeft een therapeutische werking. In het geval van Goldin kan ik me voorstellen dat ze door een zwaar proces is gegaan: ze is afgekickt, komt uit de kliniek en moet weer opnieuw beginnen. En dat uit zich in een drang om het leven vast te leggen. Het kan heerlijk zijn om te fotograferen, het geeft spanning, een adrenalinekick. Ik denk dat die camera voor haar een manier is geweest om terug te komen in het leven. Want uiteindelijk wil Nan Goldin telkens zichzelf laten zien. Bij haar is alles een schreeuw om aandacht. Biografie Nan Goldin Nan Goldin werd geboren in 1953 in Washington D.C. als jongste van vier kinderen. Het gezin verhuist naar Boston. Op haar vijftiende gaat Goldin naar een hippieschool waar ze begint met fotograferen. In 1973 heeft ze haar eerste expositie over travestieten. Het jaar daarop begint ze een studie aan de Boston


School of Fine Arts en gaat over tot het gebruik van kleurenfilm. In de jaren negentig maakt ze verscheidene slideshows en boeken, waaronder The Other Side (1992), Vakat (1993), I'll be your Mirror (1995), Couples and Loneliness (1998) en The Devil's Playground (2003). Het werk van Goldin is opgenomen in musea zoals het Museum of Modern Art in New York en Centre Pompidou in Parijs. Haar overzichtstentoonstelling in 1997 in het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam was een van de meest succesvolle exposities van het Stedelijk ooit. Goldin won in 2007 de prestigieuze Hasselblad Award en woont in New York en Parijs. Goldin in Fotomuseum Na 13 jaar is er weer werk van de Amerikaanse fotografe Nan Goldin te zien in Nederland. De tentoonstelling Poste Restante wordt, in samenwerking met C/O Berlin, gepresenteerd in de vorm van vier slideshows: filmprojecties van foto's gecombineerd met muziek. Te zien zijn: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (19781986) All by Myself (1968-1996), The Other Side (1972-1992) en Heartbeat (20002001). Daarnaast worden acht 'grids' tentoongesteld: grote panelen met een collage van foto's. In november wordt de oplevering van een nieuw werk van Nan Goldin voor het Louvre in Parijs verwacht. In een kort interview met deze krant heeft Goldinlaten weten dat het werk zal bestaan uit een mengeling van oud werk in combinatie met foto's die zij maakte van kunstwerken uit het Louvre. Foto-onderschrift: 'Clemens and Jens embracing in my hall, Paris 2001'. 'Nan one month after being battered, 1984'. Op dit artikel rust auteursrecht van NRC Handelsblad BV, respectievelijk van de oorspronkelijke auteur.


The Photography of Nan Goldin: the Intersubjective, Aesthetic and Intertextual Space Written by alexander venetis.Posted on June 3, 2010.Filed under 3rd Locations, Students.Tagged aesthetics, caravaggio, intersubjectivity, intertextuality, jacques lacan, michel foucault, nan goldin.Bookmark the Permalink.Post a Comment.Leave a Trackback URL. In this last essay I want to look at the pho tog ra phy of the well-known pho tog ra pher Nan Goldin. Although Goldin has a world wide rep u ta tion of being one of the most gifted pho tog ra phers in the field of depict ing the world of gay life, pros ti tu tion, drug use/abuse, and HIV, I do not, or at least not pri mar ily, want to go into these top ics because, as will become clear, I do not view Goldin’s work as a man i festo for social reform or eman ci pa tion of minori ties. Of course, I do see the rel e vance of inter pre ta tions based on minori ties and polit i cal reform, but still, I think there are more impor tant areas in which Goldin’s work can be eval u ated in a much richer, less biased, and more com plex way[1]. In the


past Goldin’s work has been too many times reduced to sim ple inter pre ta tions as if she only is a social activist. She her self, though, has stated on sev-eral occa sions that that is not the rea son why she has become an artist. The main rea sons for being an artist is the fact that she is fas ci nated by cap tur ing the lives of peo ple, mostly her friend’s who make up her ‘extended fam ily,’ in a way that does jus tice to the beauty of them. There fore, this essay will elab o rate on the impor tance of space and spa tial ity with regard to what I believe are Goldin’s most impor tant themes, namely (inter)subjectivity /psychology, aes thet ics, and intertextuality. In sum mary, the most promi nent theme in Goldin’s work with regard to her pho tographed sub jects is, as I con ceive it, their desire; the desire to become more than one self whether in sex ual rela tions, under influ-ence of chem i cal sub stances, or in rela tion to art. The realm of pos si bil ity of shap ing the self is what Goldin has been try ing to com mu ni cate over the last few decades. Art critic, friend and sub ject of depic tion in many of Goldin’s pho tographs Guido Costa sum ma rizes this well when he says, “Goldin is, first and fore-most, a Roman tic artist, anti-ideological, and by no means heavy-handed, more an eth i cal being than a moral ist (3). The ethics of Goldin reside exactly in the rejec tion of want ing to be a moral ist. I would assert that the agenda of her art is not to show us the virtues and vices of being moral or immoral, but about renounc ing any moral judg ment what so ever. Goldin being assessed as an “eth i cal being” by Costa is there fore to be local ized in that space of show ing what life may be rather than telling what it should be. Two of the best images dis play ing the con struc tion of inter sub jec tiv ity between two peo ple and its imag i nary char ac ter are these two photographs:

Nan and Brian in bed, New York City, USA, 1983


Nan and Brian in bed, New York City, USA, 1983 Both snap shots are taken shortly after one another in the same room depict ing Nan Goldin her self and her long-time lover Brian. The com po si tion of the first image, which became one of the most famous from her col lec tion “The Bal lad of Sex ual Depen dency,” is seman ti cally dense and in order to sup port close read ings of all details I would prob a bly need a whole paper. Still, Nan being depicted in the dark back ground wear ing a wed ding ring as a sym bol of fidelity and Brian turned away from her sig ni fy ing his being self-absorbed shows us the impos si bil ity of (uncon di tional) love. In addi tion, the use of light is what strikes me most. When look ing at the first image only, one might get the idea that the light, which is so radi antly illu mi nat ing the room and Brian’s naked body, is com ing from a set ting sun. How ever, the sec ond image, which is taken a lit tle while ear lier, is show ing us the real source of light: it is just an arti fi cial light bulb, one of the most triv ial and usu ally unus able sources of light for a pho tog ra pher. What really enriches the first image seman ti cally is that by way of look ing at it through the sec ond one we see that the main theme of this pho to graph is not just the depic tion of the decline of a love rela tion, but that this process of decay is inher ent in every love rela tion ship in gen eral. By way of trans fer ring the par tic u lar to the uni ver sal or gen eral, one sees that Goldin com ments on the con struc tion of Man instead of just record ing a pri vate sit u a tion. More over, the space between the two lovers, at least the imag i nary aspect of it, is being shown as just a pro jec tion. As Jacques Lacan puts it, the love rela tion is a result of a dialec ti cal process between pro jec tion and intro jec-tion and is ush ered in by uncon scious needs of affirm ing one’s ideal-ego. Thus, the illu sion the light gives us in the first pho to graph – an image of love as being sin cere and nat ural – is turned into dis il lu sion ment – the arti fi cial light sig ni fy ing insin cer ity, but more over, con struc tion rather than a nat ural given. What might be inter est ing in this short com par i son between Lacan and Goldin is that their views on love as being an illu sory busi ness rather than some thing nat ural seems to me fruit ful since Goldin seems to be say ing the same thing only within the realm of cre at ing images instead of an intel lec tual discourse. In addi tion, we might then be inter ested to scru ti nize the inter play between the two peo ple depicted. What exactly does the fact that they are tied together through imag i nary iden ti fi ca tion say about people’s desir ing each other in gen eral? As Deleuze points out, power in a Fou cauldian sense is not at all the idea of a sadis tic mas ter sup press ing the pow er less and speech less slave. More over, and cer tainly for Lacan, since the slave is never only dis sat is fied and unhappy with his posi tion, but also expe ri ences a masochis tic enjoy-ment from it famously called ‘jouis sance’, I would state that there are sim i lar i ties between the Lacan ian con-cept of the imag i nary and Foucault’s notion of power. What


both con cepts show us – at least seen from the angle of spa tial rela tions – is their con struc tive and there fore bind ing force. They are medi a tors in order to estab lish rela tions between sub jects. It is like they ful fill the func tion of glue: they show our selves in rela tion to oth ers but also in rela tion to our own mir ror image while dis tort ing it. In fact, with out them there would be no such thing as rela tions at all. There fore, con scious ness, as a dialec tic between sev eral enti ties, can only come into being because of these forces. In other words, the sub ject only exist within the realm of the imag i nary and power rela tions. Con scious ness is imag i nary and a result of power. In addi tion, since “Foucault’s func tion al ism throws up a new topol ogy which no longer locates the ori gin of power in a priv i-leged space, and can no longer accept a lim ited local iza tion” and because “power is local because it is never global, but […] not local or local ized because it is being dif fuse” (Deleuze 26) my trans fer ring Goldin’s image of a par tic u lar sit u a tion into a dis persed and gen eral one is legit i mate. In other words, what Goldin shows us is that every body is always con structed by oth ers and is there fore a social entity in a Fou-cauldian sense. So, the third image of Goldin I want to show is a pho to graph of two men mak ing love:

Clemens squeez ing Jens’ nip ples, Paris, France 2001 The rea son I want to empha size this image is because of the fol low ing reasons.“Clemens squeez ing Jens’ nip ples” is part of a set of pho tographs Goldin took when liv ing with these men in Ger many for a few years. While the pho tographs were being exhib ited in gal leries and muse ums they were known as the images of “the Caravaggio-boys”. The fact that this phrase explic itly con tains an inter tex tual ref er ence to Car avag gio seems to me that there clearly is a sim i lar ity between Goldin’s pho tographs with regard to these men and the paint ings of Car avag gio. But the ques tion then arises to what aspect of Caravaggio’s paint ings do these pho tographs refer? Obvi ously, Car avag gio never depicted homo sex ual love, so the con tent or sub-ject mat ter can not be the point of ref er ence. Thus, to me the only answer lies in the field of the aes thetic form of the com po si tions. The rela tion between Goldin and Car avag gio lies in the fact that Goldin quotes Car avag gio: she uses his tech nique of cre at ing images depict ing naked bod ies in which the light ing empha-sizes the body and dark ens the sides of the frame. This, I would sug gest, shows us a very inter est ing con-nec tion between the Renais sance artist Car avag gio and the ‘post mod ern’ pho tog ra pher Goldin. Although mak ing use of dif fer ent instru ments to cre ate their art (pho tog ra phy, of course, not yet being invented in Caravaggio’s days), both artists


seem to have a link to the idea of the ethics of human desire. In case of Car avag gio, his depic tion of the human body in a time when Clas si cal cul ture became ‘rein vented’ and when Man returned back again on stage as the pri mary goal of life rather than strict reli gious dogma as in the Mid dle Ages was usual, tells us about the value being attrib uted to the indi vid ual by this artists. As I already pointed out, I view the most pri mary ele ment of the human his or her desire. Goldin, in her more or less Caravaggio-like images, seem to sug gest that she is not depict ing homo sex u al ity per se, but rather the impor tance of desire in gen eral. What strikes me, there fore, is that although cir cum stances have changed dra mat i cally – from Renaissance’s Italy to con tem po rary Amer ica (or Ger many where these pho tographs were taken) – and there fore space and time as well being altered, artists still seem to dis play a con tin uum in their pre oc cu pa tions. I con clude there fore that, refer ring to the quo ta tion of Northrop Frye in my pre vi ous post where was said that acts of cre ation are inher ently myth i cal and that we there fore only need a myth of cre ation if we want to under stand art, the myth i cal space never ceased to be. The inter tex tual space which Goldin cre ates here is, at least in this pho to graph, the place where her images really get seman ti cally rich and her project more than visible. Bib li og ra phy Costa, Guido. Nan Goldin. New York: Phaidon Press, 2001. Deleuze, Gilles. “A New Carthog ra pher” in Fou cault. Lon don: Con tin uum, 1999, 21–38. [1] The pho tog ra phy of Nan Goldin has been my sub ject for analy sis more often than only now. I wrote a paper on her work for a course called “Lit er atuur in de Actu aliteit” sev eral years ago. The rea son that I take her work as my sub ject again is twofold, namely because of my fas ci na tion with her art and my dis sat is fac tion with my analy sis of it back then which almost exclu sively empha sized the polit i cal sta tus of her work. Since I am inclined to abdi cate my pre vi ous assess ments of Goldin’s work, I would like to address other ele ments inher ent in her work.

Nan Goldin interviewed by Adam Mazur and Paulina Skirgajllo-Krajewska

If I want to take a picture, I take it no matter what


Nan Goldin - Self-portrait red. Zurich. 2000 72.00 xI 04.00 x 4.50 cm Matthew Marks Gallery See also: Nan Goldin - "Devil's Playground", exhibition in Center for Contemporary Arts, Warsaw

Your approach towards photography is very personal. Is not it a kind of therapy? Yes, photography saved my life. Every time I go through something scary, traumatic, I survive by taking pictures. You also help other people to survive. Memory about them does not disappear, because they are on your pictures. Yes. It is about keeping a record of the lives I lost, so they cannot be completely obliterated from memory. My work is mostly about memory. It is very important to me that everybody that I have been close to in my life I make photographs of them. The people are gone, like Cookie, who is very important to me, but there is still a series of pictures showing how complex she was. Because these pictures are not about statistics, about showing people die, but it is all about individual lives. In the case of New York, most creative and freest souls in the city died. New York is not New York anymore. I've lost it and I miss it. They were dying because of AIDS. You decided to leave the United States because of the effect the AIDS epidemic had on the community of New York gay artists and writers? I left America in 1991 to Europe. I went to Berlin partially because of that, and partially because one of my best friends, Alf Bold, was dying and I stayed with him and took care of him. He had nobody to take


care of him. I mean, he had lots of famous friends, but he had nobody to take care of him on a daily basis. He was one of people who invented the Berlin film festival. This was also the time when my Paris photo dealer Gilles died of AIDS. He had the most radical gallery in the city. He did not tell anybody in Europe that he has AIDS, because the attitude here was so different than in the United States. There was no ACT UP in Paris, and in 1993 it looked very much like in the US in the 1950s. Now it has changed, but at that time people in Europe told me: 'Oh, we do not need ACT UP. We have very good hospitals'. Your art is basically socially engaged... It is very political. First, it is about gender politics. It is about what it is to be male, what it is to be female, what are gender roles... Especially The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is very much about gender politics, before there was such a word, before they taught it at the university. A friend of mine said I was born with a feminist heart. I decided at the age of five that there was nothing my brothers can do and I cannot do. I grew up that way. It was not like an act of decision that I was going to make a piece about gender politics. I made this slideshow about my life, about my past life. Later, I realized how political it was. It is structured this way so it talks about different couples, happy couples. For me, the major meaning of the slideshow is how you can become sexually addicted to somebody and that has absolutely nothing in common with love. It is about violence, about being in a category of men and women. It is constructed so that you see all different roles of women, then of children, the way children are brought up, and these roles, and then men, then it shows a lot of violence. That kind of violence the men play with. It goes to clubs, bars, it goes to prostitution as one of the options for women - prostitution or marriage. Then it goes back to the social scene, to married and re-married couples, couples having sex, it ends with twin graves.

Nan Goldin - Valerie and Gotscho embraced, Paris, 1999, Galerie Yvon Lambert


Nan Goldin - Clemens, Jens and Nicolas laughing at Le Pulp. Paris. 1999 72.00 xI 04.00 x 4.50 cm Matthew Marks Gallery


Nan Goldin - Clemens squeezing Jens' nipples. Paris. 2001 183.00 x 122.00 x 2.50 cm Galerie Yvon Lambert


Nan Goldin - C. Z and Max on the beach. Truro. MA. 1976. 104.00 x 72.00 x 4.50 cm Matthew Marks Gallery

Nan Goldin - Simon and Jessica kissing in my shower, Paris 2001, Matthew Marks Gallery


Nan Goldin - Valerie and Bruno in bed with blue blanket. Paris. 2001 72.00 xI 04.00 x 4.50 cm. Matthew Marks Gallery

Could you please tell us something about the people, the artists who have influenced your art? My biggest influences are my friends. Bruce was one of first persons that introduced me to slide shows in the 1970s. I started doing slide shows because I left school. During school I went to live in Provincetown, a gay resort three hours away from Boston. It is the farthest point in America's east coast. It is beautiful. It is a little community of artists. Norman Mailer lives there. A lot of painters and writers live there. In the 1970s it was really wild with Waters, Cookie, Sharon, and Sharon's son. It was incredibly wild. Later everything has completely changed. In Provincetown we used to live in small groups. I took lots of pictures of my friends, like "Bruce in the snow". I've known Bruce since 1972. We lived together with Bruce, Sharon, and Cookie. I was at the School at the Museum of Fine Arts. Those days the school was that teachers sat in the parking lot and drank. Literally. This was before the 1980s. We were told that we will never make any money on art. Now, the students that I teach, at Yale particularly, all they want to know is what gallery they could have a show in or could I help them to get a show. They go right from the graduate school to the big galleries. It is all a career move. When I went to art school, I never heard of Artforum. Never. I took classes in Russian literature, in Faulkner, whom I love. I took writing classes, I took the history of film, I took drawing to be able to see better, because many photographers cannot see anything. I actually became very influenced by Rothko. I love the work of Richard Todd, but I cannot say he was an influence. Anything that I see and I love is an influence, but I never try to replicate somebody else, like I never tried to make a Rothko. I love Caravaggio, but I never studied Caravaggio. I never made any Caravaggios. Some of my pictures of boys having sex, they have the same sense of light as Caravaggio.


Caravaggio also knew all the people that he painted. They were his lovers or hustlers. Pasolini used boys from the street that he loved that he desired. Fassbinder only used people he knew. Cassavetes used the same people over and over, so I am not the first one to do that, but I think that people have forgotten how radical my work was in the 1980s, when I started, because nobody was doing work like that. Now, so many people have done work like that like Wolfgang Tillmans, Juergen Teller, Corinne DayÉ Now people think I am just one of many who've done that. They do not understand thatThe Ballad of Sexual Dependency was so radical when it came out. I was very influenced by film, because I did not go to high school. I went to the movies. Sometimes I went to the movies two or three times per day. I saw every movie from the 1940s and the 1950s. I saw every movie where all those goddesses were... Every movie with Marlena Dietrich, every movie with Bette Davies, every movie with Barbara Stanwyck, every movie with Marilyn Monroe. Then I saw an enormous amount of Italian movies with Antonioni, Pasolini, de SicaÉ I was very influenced by Cassavetes. When I am influenced, unlike many other contemporary photographers, I would never take a scene from the movie. I was very influenced by Fassbinder and Kie¦lowski. I saw his "Ten Commandments." How do you pronounce his name? Yes, he is very important to me. Also Fassbinder was important. I saw all his works. Did you make any movies? Yes, I made two documentaries. "I'll Be Your Mirror" was made with the BBC. It is about my life. The other was made with Joana and Aurele. It is about AIDS and it is called "Ballad at the Morgue." He has AIDS and she does not. It is about a couple, about a relation of a couple, where one person is HIV-positive and the other is not. The film has only been shown in Turin. What about music? Yes, it is very important to me. Now, I am very influenced by Nick Cave. He saved my life, literally.


Nan Goldin - Volcano at dawn. Stromboli. ltaly. 1996 121,.50 x 182.50 x 2.50 cm Matthew Marks Gallery

Nan Goldin - Moss covered rocks. Iceland. 1999 72.00 xI 04.00 x 4.50 cm. Matthew Marks Gallery


Nan Goldin - Villa Bovina. NY. New Year's Day. 2001 121.50 x 182.50 x 2.50 cm. Matthew Marks Gallery


Nan Goldin - Simon laughing. Yvon's house. Avignon. 2001 72.00 xI 04.00 x 4.50 cm. Matthew Marks Gallery


Nan Goldin - David wearing his hood on my street. Sag Harbor. 2001 72.00 xI 04.00 x 4.50 cm. Matthew Marks Gallery

You were one of the few photographers who started to take color pictures. How did it happen? I accidentally used the roll of color film in my camera. I thought it is black and white, but it was color. Unlike Egglestone and the other photographers using color, your pictures were discovered quite late. Some people discovered my photography early. It was just very underground. It was very good what they taught us at the art school: that you have to suffer to be an artist; that you do not need material, financial success, but you have to be driven. A lot of great artists came out of my school from that period. Some of them are my friends like David Armstrong and Philip Lorca diCorcia. When I first started to take pictures of drag queens my influences were glamour magazines, fashion magazines. I like Horst, Cecil Beaton, and the early work of Newton, I like Guy Bourdin. I did not know about art photography. In 1974, I went to school and there was a teacher who showed me Larry Clark. It has entirely changed my work. I knew that there had been somebody else who had done their own life. You know his book Tulsa? I knew that were precedents for using one's private experiences as art. So you just switched from this glamour photography to this very personal approach? No, I did not just switch. It was a long process of learning about the history of photography. He introduced me to August Sander, Weegee, Diane Arbus. The drag queens hated the work of Arbus. It was not allowed in the house, because they hated the way she photographed drag queens. She tried to strip them of their identity. She did not respect the way they wanted to be. Arbus is a genius, but her work is about herself. Every picture is about herself. It is never respecting the way the other person is. It is almost a psychotic need to try to find another identity, so I think that Arbus tries on the skin of other people. I have


written a lot about Arbus. Some critics find connections between you and Arbus. What do you think about such comparisons? The daughter of Arbus thinks that there is no connection at all. I think there is some connection, because both of us have an unusual degree of empathy, but it is manifested in a different way. She was a photographic genius and I am not a photographic genius. My genius, if I have any, is in the slideshows, in the narratives. It is not in making perfect images. It is in the groupings of work. It is in relationships I have with other people. Is it not connected with your fascination with literature? You mentioned FaulknerÉ Faulkner wrote about one tiny community and he wrote around 25 great novels and many short stories. They are always set in the place he loves. It has an invented name, but it is a real place. It is all based on what he knows. I always fought strongly against traditional documentary photography. It has changed, but in the 1970s it was always strong white men going to India, making exotic pictures of something they have no idea of. I always felt that I have right to photograph only my own tribe or people, when I travel, to whom I get close to and that I gave something to. I never took pictures with a long lens, it is always short and I have to get close to people I photograph. What is the relation between the diary you write and the pictures you take? Nothing. My diary is really boring. Have you not tried to put together both diaries, textual and visual, and do something like Peter Beard? No. I think these are two different thingsÉ Have you ever published parts of this diary? No, I would never do this. I am writing it for myself and nobody else. My wish is to burn it immediately after my deathÉ Some of your pictures are blurred. You did it on purpose? Actually, I take blurred pictures, because I take pictures no matter what the light is. If I want to take a picture, I do not care if there is light or no light. If I want to take a picture, I take it no matter what. Sometimes I use very low shutter speed and they come out blurred, but it was never an intention like David Armstrong started to do what we call, he and I, "Fuzzy-wuzzy landscapes." He looked at the back of my pictures and studied them. He started to take pictures like them without people in them. They are just out of focus landscapes. He actually did it, intentionally threw the camera out of focus. I have never done it in my life. I take pictures like in here when there is no sun or light that I think all my pictures are going to be out of focus. Even Valerie and Bruno and whatever I take, because there is not enough light, and so I use a very low shutter speed. It used to be because I was drunk, but now I am not. The drugs influenced all my life. Both good and bad. I heard about an artist in Poland, Witkacy, who wrote down on his paintings all the drugs he was on. Depending how many drugs he took, that is how much he charged for the portrait. I saw his portrait at the National Museum, a kind of German expressionism, and I loved it. I saw your pictures in the 50th anniversary issue of Aperture magazine. What shocked me most was the relation between them and the new Leica ad - this one with your hands holding the M7, very artistic and black and white - I never thought of your photography being as classic as Leica. I always use Leica. Previously it was M6, and recently I work with M7 camera. I received one as a salary for this particular ad. However, I immediately lost it while photographing the "Valerie floating" series. I was swimming with her holding my camera in one hand and taking pictures at the same time. It was really difficult. The camera got broken, but the photographs were really worth the price. How do you feel having these radical works being shown at the most prestigious museums? In Paris, for instance, I had a choice between the Centre Pompidou, where all the people go, and the most beautiful museum in Paris, Musee de la Ville de Paris. I liked the women who worked at the museum, but I also loved the man who was taking over the Pompidou. I am very loyal to anybody who has helped me, especially before I was famous. Some told me that I should choose this beautiful museum, but I chose the Pompidou, because I wanted people to see it. To the beautiful museum go only


artists and elites. What are you going to do next? After the Devil's Playground and the Matthew Marks show in New York? I do not know. I never know. I think it is going to be something different, because I have been through hard times. We will see how the market will react to this, but I do not care about the art market at all. My dealers are becoming greedier and greedier. They start talking to me in this strange way saying "We will show this and this picture, because they are going to sell well." I am worried about that they no longer even pretend to have any ideals. At least my American dealers. Interview by Adam Mazur and Paulina Skirgajllo-Krajewska 13 February 2003, Warsaw Proofreading: Simon Cygielski See also: â—?

'80s Than - Nan Goldin talks to Tom Holert (ArtForum.com)

Nan Goldin - The sky on the twilight of Philippine's suicide. Winterthur. Switzerland. 1997 72.00 x 104.00 x 4.50 cm. Mathew Marks Gallery


Nan Goldin - Fatima candles. Portugal. 1998 122.00 x 183.00 x 2.50 cm Galerie Yvon Lambert


Nan Goldin - At the bar: C. Toon and So, Bankok 1992, Matthew Marks Gallery


Nan Goldin, Self-portrait in hotel Baur au Lac, Zurich, 1998, Matthew Marks Gallery

Nan Goldin Exhibition Essay Interview & Reviews Photography  

Nan Goldin Exhibition Essay Interview & Reviews Photography

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